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Dog fouling

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Dog fouling is a major issue in many different areas of the UK. Apart from the fact that dog fouling is a nuisance, it's associated with various diseases including 'toxocara canis'. Dog owners should clean up after their dog in public places - you can report dog fouling that isn't cleaned up, to your local council.

The Litter (Animal Droppings) Order 1991 of the Environmental Protection Act (1990) places a duty on local authorities to keep the following areas clear of dog faeces:

  • Any public walk or pleasure ground
  • Any land laid out as a garden or used for the purpose of recreation
  • Any part of the seashore which is frequently used by large numbers of people, and managed by the person having direct control of it as a tourist resort or recreational facility
  • Any esplanade or promenade
  • Any land not forming part of the highway or, in Scotland, a public road, which is open to the air, which the public are permitted to use on foot only, and which provides access to retail premises
  • A trunk road picnic area
  • A picnic site
Prosecution of dog owners who fail to clear up

In England and Wales

The Dogs (Fouling of Land) Act 1996, allows authorities to designate any land in their area as poop scoop areas without any requirement to provide signs or dog waste bins.

The land must be publicly accessible and open to the air; however, the following areas are not included:

  • Carriageways with a speed limit of more than 40 mph
  • Land used for agriculture or woodlands
  • Land which is predominantly marshland, moor or heath
  • Rural common land
The penalty for not clearing up dog fouling can be up to £1,000 if taken to court, but there is also provision for a fixed penalty scheme with a fine of £50 in England.

In England the main legislation relating to dog fouling is dealt with under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Part IV).

Exceptions to the offence are:

  • The person in charge of the dog has a reasonable excuse for not clearing up. (Being unaware of the fouling or not having the means to clean up is not an excuse.)
  • The owner or occupier of the land has consented to the faeces being left
  • The person puts the faeces in a bin on the land
  • The person in charge of the dog has a registered visual impairment
Fouling in Northern Ireland

Under the Litter (Northern Ireland) Order 1994, local authorities have the duty to keep land or any road it is responsible for, clear of litter and refuse (including dog faeces). In addition, it is an offence for the owner of a dog not to clear up after their dog if it has left faeces on publicly accessible land. The penalty is up to £500. The fixed penalty rate is £50.

Fouling in Scotland

The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 section 48 makes it an offence to allow a dog to foul a footpath, local authority grass verge, a local authority pedestrian precinct or any local authority maintained recreation or sports ground. The fine is up to £500.

Dog control orders in England & Wales

Local authorities and parish councils (defined as primary and secondary authorities respectively) can use dog control orders to cover the five offences below:

  • Failing to remove dog faeces
  • Not keeping a dog on a lead
  • Not putting, and keeping, a dog on a lead when directed to do so by an authorised officer
  • Permitting a dog to enter land from which dogs are excluded
  • Taking more than a specified number of dogs onto land
Local authorities can still make byelaws for offences that fall outside these categories.

Land which can be subject to a dog control order

Dog control orders can be used on any land that is open to the air and which the public can use either with or without payment.

Land is treated as land "open to the air" if it is open to the air on at least one side e.g. railway platform or garage forecourt that remains open to the air at all times.

The Secretary of State has the power to designate types of land to be excluded, such as forestry commission land.

Dog control orders can still apply within areas subject to a gating order, under section 2 of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005.

Exempted persons

  • No offence is committed if a person in charge of dog acts with the consent of the person who owns or is otherwise in control of the land (e.g. working dogs on farms).
  • People with disabilities who make use of trained assistance dogs are not subject to a dog control order excluding dogs from specified land.
  • Any registered disabled person (with the exception of a deaf person) is exempt from removing faeces in a dog control area.
  • Any person with reasonable excuse for failing to comply with the order.
To make a dog control order

Making a dog control order, an authority must:

  • Consult its primary or secondary authorities to avoid potential conflicts
  • Demonstrate the order is a necessary and proportionate response to problems caused by the activities of dogs and their owners, and those in charge of dogs
  • Balance the interests of dog owners and those in charge of dogs, against the interests of those affected by the activities of dogs
  • Consider how easy a dog control order will be to enforce
  • Advertise revocation of an order in a local paper
  • Erect signage in the location of the designated dog control area, summarising the order
Fixed penalties

A fixed penalty is available for contravening a dog control order. The default amount is £75, but a local authority can set the amount within a specified range. If prosecuted for the offence, a person is liable to a maximum level 3 fine of £1,000.

Who can issue a fixed penalty notice?

  • Local authority dog wardens or another authorised local authority officer
  • Person authorised by secondary authority e.g. parish council
  • Any person (including their employees) if authorised by the local authority or parish council
  • Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and other persons accredited by Chief Police Officers
Please note that it is an offence for anyone to withhold or falsify their details when they are given a fixed penalty notice.

Photographing those issued with a fixed penalty

Police officers, PCSOs (where designated) and accredited persons, have the power to photograph persons away from the police station, who have been issued with a penalty notice. This greatly reduces suspects denying that they were the ones who committed the offence.

Local authorities can retain the receipts from these fixed penalty notices and use them only to help meet the cost of certain specified functions. However, certain local authorities can spend the penalty receipts on any of its functions. In the case of dog controls, specified functions are litter, dog, graffiti and fly-posting functions – these will be functions such as issuing more notices, provisions of bins, advertising, cleaning, etc.

Dog control orders in Scotland

In Scotland, most of the legislation is found in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Under this Act, the owner of a dangerous dog can be fined and/or imprisoned. The local authority can also create local laws to make owners keep dogs on leads in particular areas, or to ban dogs from places like children's playgrounds.

The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 does not apply in Scotland. There are no 'Dog Control Orders' of this type in Scotland.

Dog control orders in Northern Ireland

The control of dogs is governed by the Dogs Order (Northern Ireland) 1983 (as amended by the Dangerous Dogs (Northern Ireland) Order 1991). Where the Local Council Dog Warden or Enforcement Officer observes a dog fouling in a public place, the owner, if identified, is liable to a fixed penalty charge of £50. Legal proceedings may also be instigated, depending upon circumstances.

District councils can, under the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972, make bye-laws requiring dogs to be under control in certain areas, for instance, requiring dogs to be leashed in parks, and also provide for penalties for fouling outside designated areas in parks. There are also provisions under the Dogs Order for dogs to be kept under control.